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The next stop for Evans could be in Storrs

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published March 29. 2012 4:00AM
Fred Beckham/AP Photo
R.J. Evans of Holy Cross, right, drives against UConn's Roscoe Smith during a game on Dec. 18, 2011, at the XL Center in Hartford. Evans, the former Norwich Free Academy standout, may enroll at UConn.
Former NFA star graduates from Holy Cross in May but has a year of eligibility left

Norwich Free Academy graduate R.J. Evans visited his home state on Monday, but his destination was not his Salem home.

Evans, who attends Holy Cross in Worcester, stopped by Gampel Pavilion to meet with UConn head coach Jim Calhoun and assistant Glen Miller to explore the possibility of playing basketball there.

On track to graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in economics, Evans is looking to apply to graduate school. After receiving a medical redshirt for sitting out most of the 2009-10 season with a hip flexor injury, he has one more year of eligibility remaining and would be able to play next season.

UConn is his top choice right now. He's also considering Albany, Quinnipiac, Wake Forest and Virginia, but has not visited any of those schools.

"We just talked about my interest in the program…," Evans said. "What piqued my interest is, there's a chance to get a great education and a chance to play at a great level of basketball and play at home."

"… It's hard for it not to be (my top choice) because I'm a hometown kid. … It would be a great opportunity in general and hard to pass up."

It is far from a done deal.

Evans has to meet the academic requirements to attend graduate school at UConn. And the coaching staff has to decide if bringing in Evans is the right move. The two parties will talk again sometime next week after the UConn coaching staff returns from the Final Four in New Orleans.

A stocky 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard, Evans appears to be a good fit.

He would occupy a scholarship for just one season and add much-needed leadership, toughness and competitive spirit. The Huskies are losing their most experienced player in Alex Oriakhi who's planning to transfer.

Evans is a versatile player, averaging 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds. 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 47.7 percent from the field last season.

He received some positive feedback during his meeting on Monday.

"They said it would be a good opportunity," Evans said, "because they think what I can bring to the table is a tough, hard-nosed guard and that I can bring some leadership as an older guy. … I'm definitely encouraged. I feel good that they showed some interest in me. … Hopefully, it can all work out."

"… It would be pretty cool if I ended up at UConn."

The Huskies have their own scouting report on Evans who scored a team-high 15 points and had four rebounds in his team's 77-40 loss to UConn on Dec. 18 in Hartford.

Evans is familiar with the uncertainty surrounding the program. He knows UConn is facing a postseason ban in 2013 and about the strong possibility that sophomore Jeremy Lamb and freshman Andre Drummond might jump to the NBA.

"The tournament is obviously something I'd like to play in," Evans said. "I have to sit down with my parents and weigh my options. It's something that you can't base your entire decision on."

He expects to pick a school around mid-April. By then, he'll have more information regarding his academic status.

When he graduates from Holy Cross, he'll leave behind good friends and fond memories.

He earned Patriot League rookie of the year honors in 2009, leading the Crusaders to the Patriot League tournament championship game, and started 96 games in his career.

"It's been a great experience," Evans said. "I couldn't ask for much more."

g.keefe@theday.com

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